Should I Cover My Air Conditioner During Winter?

The Short Answer Is: Homeowners generally should not cover their outdoor air conditioner units during the winter. While it might seem like a good idea to protect the unit from snow and ice, covering it can actually trap moisture inside, potentially leading to corrosion and damage. Most modern air conditioner units are designed to withstand the elements, and covering them can interfere with their ventilation and lead to other issues.

If you’re like most cautious people living in Worthington, OH, then you must have asked yourself countless times whether it’s important to cover your outdoor unit during the cold season. It may seem critical to protect your outdoor air conditioning unit from the elements during winter, but is it really necessary? Isn’t the unit already built for harsh weather conditions? What is the worst that could happen if you left it uncovered? If you’ve been asking yourself such questions, then here’s what you should consider in order to make a more informed decision.

Rodent Infestation

If you cover your outdoor air conditioner, you may create a home for small animals, such as rodents. During the cold season, these animals look for shelter from the elements and take advantage of every opportunity they find. If your air conditioner is well-covered, these small creatures wouldn’t hesitate to take shelter in it. The problem is that animals may create serious issues in the unit; for instance, they can chew the unit’s electrical wires and un-insulated lines, damaging the unit.

Moisture Infiltration

Many people cover their outdoor units to prevent water from getting into the units and damaging them. If water gathers in the unit’s condenser coils and freezes, the coils may get damaged. Even though this possibility is a valid argument, you need to understand that covering the unit may not be an effective way to prevent water from entering the unit because, during the cold season, moisture can easily accumulate in the unit from the humid atmosphere. Similarly, moisture can get in as water on the ground evaporates.

In actuality, covering the entire unit may trap moisture inside and create a humid environment that causes corrosion and rust. Your outdoor air conditioning unit contains items that don’t do well in extremely moist environments, such as wiring connections, circuit boards, and wires. This means that while covering the outdoor unit may prevent water from getting indirectly, eventually, it may find its way in.

Mold and Mildew

The air conditioner is generally made to stay open to outdoor air. When you cover the unit, you may prevent it from having enough airflow. This would encourage mold to grow on the evaporator coils. If it grows fast enough, your air conditioner’s efficiency may be reduced as the mold blocks sufficient airflow through the unit’s coils.

You’re Better off Without the Cover

From what we’ve discussed above, it’s clear that covering your outdoor unit is not really necessary unless you’re experiencing a blizzard. However, sometimes, the reasons not to cover the unit outweigh the reasons for covering the unit. It’s well-known that all outdoor units are made with extreme weather conditions in mind. Your air conditioning system is probably one of your most expensive appliances because of the materials that were used to make it.

All the parts and materials were used because they can withstand harsh winters and hot summers. It’s also likely that the manufacturer considered all the issues experts raise to encourage covering the outdoor units while designing your air conditioner. This is why most manufacturers don’t specify any instances that would necessitate covering the unit.

Other Reasons Why You May Want to Avoid Covering the Unit

You may also want to leave your unit open because of the following reasons:

  1. Covering the unit may prevent water from getting out of the unit. The water may freeze and cause significant damage to your unit’s internal parts.
  2. By covering your unit, you would be preventing rain from clearing out the debris. Throughout the seasons, it’s likely your air conditioning unit has been gathering all manner of debris. Rainwater may help clear it and clean the unit.
  3. The manufacturers generally advise against it. If you read your unit’s manual, you’ll likely find a clause asking you not to cover your air conditioner.

While there are reasons why you shouldn’t cover your air conditioner, there are some reasons why you should cover it. While deciding whether to cover your unit, you should also consider a few things.

The Debris

During winter, it’s easy to have issues with your unit when dried leaves and other debris get into the system and get trapped in the sensitive fins. If that happens, your unit can be inefficient or even break down when you start using it. Covering the unit may help you maintain your unit by keeping unwanted debris out.

The Snow

We both know your outdoor air conditioning is designed to stay outdoors. That means that it’s specially made to withstand harsh weather conditions, including snow. Nonetheless, too much ice and snow can damage some parts of your unit and can cause premature breakdowns. This is one of the reasons you’ll often find many stores selling canvas or plastic covers designed to protect air conditioners.

Technically, when the weather gets really bad and snow piles onto the internal parts of your unit, such as the coil and fan blades, they may get damaged. The snow may melt and re-freeze into ice around the internal parts.

Cover Your Unit with Regular Maintenance

Instead of covering your unit and exposing it to potential problems, you should consider maintaining it on a regular basis during the cold season. Regular maintenance will help you avoid issues that compel people to cover their outdoor units, such as damage from leaves and debris. Maintaining your system also allows you to uncover issues that would have been caused by the elements, including ice damages.

Moreover, you probably want to protect your manufacturer’s warranty. In most cases, warranties require AC owners to maintain their systems regularly so the guarantees remain valid. Covering your air conditioning unit and hoping nothing will happen to it throughout the season may encourage you to skip maintenance appointments, thereby voiding your warranty. In order to protect your warranty, you also have to work with a certified professional.

Lucky for you, Buckeye Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has years of experience in maintaining all types of air conditioning units. We’re known to offer high-quality HVAC services in Worthington, OH, at very affordable prices. Our goal is to help you ensure your system reaches its full lifetime by offering helpful tips alongside our excellent maintenance services. During the cold season, you can entrust us with the maintenance of your air conditioning unit and expect it to run smoothly when the time to use it comes.

Besides our great services, what sets us apart in the industry is a high level of professionalism, friendliness, and matchless support. Even if you need services beyond maintaining your air conditioner, we’re the team to call. We repair, maintain, and install heating and cooling systems professionally with an aim to help our clients lower their energy bills, be more comfortable, and lead stress-free lives. Contact us today to learn more about how our services can help you or to schedule an appointment!

Related Reading